READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l The theme of Romans is that we are made right to walk right. In view of God’s great mercies to save us, we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to live the perfect will of God through the renewal of our minds and to serve others in humility, honour each other in love and overcome evil with good (Rm 12).
Rm 13 expands on the teaching of walking right:
1) Live consciously as a good citizen (V1-7).
Paul tells the church to do the following –
-submit and not rebel against the sovereign authorities established by God
– do what is right so as not to fear punishment
– live with right conscience by giving what is due.
Submission to authorities is not blind or absolute obedience if it means disobedience to God. There are biblical exceptions with people disobeying authorities, e.g. if the authorities instruct us to kill innocent lives (the Hebrew midwives in Exodus), when we are compelled to engage in false worship (Dan 3), or when we are banned from sharing the gospel (Acts 4:17-20;5:27-29;5:40-42).
The Greek word for submit is “hupo-tasso” which means arrange in order under (someone). It is the same word used in Ephesians to submit to one another(V21) and wives to submit to husbands(V22). For the purposes of good order, we as Christians are to submit to good Government which is God’s servant to keep peace and order. As conscientious and good citizens,
a. We recognise who is sovereign
-earthly authorities have no power except given by God (e.g. John 19:11)
-we pray for authorities (1 Tim 2:1-2) to be good, just, righteous, to fear God and not man
b. Do what is right
– live with integrity, not flouting laws of the land because that is our witness. Christians who are seen as trouble makers and law breakers bring disrepute to our Lord.
c. Give what is due
-we give to Caesar to is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Matt 22:21)
d. Flourish what is good
-seek the welfare of the city (Jer 29:7)
We may not always agree with government policies but recognise what is good and co-operate.
2) Live perseveringly as a good neighbour (V8-10)
Just as we can never stop loving ourselves, we are to love our neighbours in the same way. Our neighbour is anyone in our sphere of influence at home, workplace and church and extends beyond to people we do not like or even our enemies. The purpose of the law is fulfilled through love. John Stott put it this way – “Love needs law for direction, law needs love for inspiration”.
The last 5 commandments prohibiting murder, stealing, adultery, giving false testimony and covetousness pertain to our relationship with one another and seek to prevent us from harming others. Beyond the literal meaning of these commandments, we are guilty of breaking these commands when we “murder” others with our words or inaction, take credit for other people’s work or deprive others of their rights through dishonesty, engage in pornography or devise schemes to get what we want at the expense of others. Love seeks the good of our neighbour. We need to remain and be rested in Christ to bear the fruit of agape love, which is selfless and self-giving love. We ask for God’s grace to enable us to love those we do not like.
3) Prepare expectantly for His return as a good disciple (V11-14).
We should be good citizens and neighbours because Christ is returning. Paul calls us to:
a. Understand the time (V11).
It is more important to know God’s time than what we think may be the right time. The key salvation events have already taken place and Christ’s new age has begun and will come to fulfilment. The Final Day might come any time so we must expectantly anticipate, and be watchful and alert.
b. Live according to the time (V12b-14).
Put aside deeds of darkness and put on Christ, stop having thoughts that you will be ashamed of if brought to the light. When He returns is not as important as we being ready for Him when He returns (AW Tozer).
How to be prepared?
-urgently stop sinning
-earnestly pursue God. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Mt 6:33)
-faithfully walk in Christ every day
We are ready when we have nothing to hide, nothing to fear and nothing to lose.
Living as good citizens, good neighbours and staying prepared for Christ’s return are marks of discipleship. Life here is not easy but God has given us resources to live right. The Holy Spirit gives us a foretaste of eternity. As we taste and find that the Lord is good, we will want more and more of God. May God give us grace to walk right and live in the light of eternity.
(Sermon notes by Woo Choi Yin)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- According to Paul, what does submission to the authorities entail?
- Does this submission mean blind obedience? Why not?
- What are the ways we can live conscientiously as good citizens? What is something practical you can do to apply this discipleship lesson?
- How does love fulfil the law?
- Who is that “neighbour” that needs your persevering love?
- Why does Paul call us to “understand the time”? (v 11).
- What must we do to live according to “this time”? (v 12-14)
- How ready are you for the return of Christ? What is one practical action you can take to be ready?
- Share one or two takeaways from this sermon. Pray for each other as you seek to obey and apply God’s Word.